(JAPAN TIMES) – On Feb. 1, China’s new coast guard law went into effect. It allows the Chinese coast guard to fire upon vessels around the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, which are claimed by both China and Japan, or ships around a number of reefs and islands in the South China Sea where Beijing has contested claims with the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam, among others. The new law could escalate tensions in the region, and Japan is now debating how to respond.
A 2020 U.S. Department of Defense report notes that, over the past decade, China has more than doubled the number of large coast guard patrol ships over 1,000 tons, from about 60 in 2010 to more than 130 as of last year. That makes the Chinese coast guard, dubbed by some as China’s second navy, the largest in the world, the DOD says.
The majority of these new ships are equipped with not only helicopter facilities and water cannons but also 30 mm and 76 mm guns, which are often much bigger than the guns carried by the coast guard fleets of other countries. Some of these coast guard ships can also operate far away from the mainland Chinese coast, and for extended periods of time.
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